Did America Have a Christian Founding- Learning Hidden Historical Truth: In today’s episode, we have special guest Mark David Hall on to talk about his new book, “Did America have a Christian Founding? Separating modern myth from historical truth.” What he has to share is very insightful! Tune in now to learn more!
Air Date: 09/09/2018
Guest: Mark David Hall
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Transcription note: As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Faith And The Culture
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live! Where we’re talking about today’s hottest topics on policy, faith, and the culture, always doing that from a Biblical, historical, and Constitutional perspective.
It’s so important to look back at what works what doesn’t work. It’s so important to get the biblical perspective of how we should be doing things, and, for our nation, that constitutional perspective of how our system actually works.
My name is Rick Green. I’m a former Texas legislator. I’m here with David Barton, America’s premier historian, and our founder of WallBuilders. Tim Barton is with us. He is a national speaker, pastor, and president of WallBuilders.
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Special Guest – Professor Mark David Hall
Later in the program, Professor Mark David Hall will be with us. He’s got a new book out called, Did America have a Christian founding – separating modern myth from historical truth.
We’ve had him on many times on varying topics. This being one of them. We are excited about this new book that’s coming out. This is the theme of what Wall Builders has done for almost three decades, guys?
We might be past three decades actually. It’s really close.
Yeah, thirty years of bringing this truth back. So excited to see these other outlets and a professor like this with such a good book on the very topic.
America’s Forgotten History In Heroes
Yeah, Mark David Hall has been on many times as the content expert and a very well-spoken smart guy.
Rick, as you’ve mentioned, one of the things that WallBuilders has done for years is trying to present America’s forgotten history in heroes — trying to bring America’s history back to light. And certainly recognizing the Christian heritage, a Christian foundation, that was there at the beginning of the nation.
Dad, you and I have talked for years about the fact that it would be nice if we became unnecessary in culture because there were enough people waking up in churches, and schools that are starting to present the truth. The truth that is visible – it’s there.
It’s not even that hard to find if you start doing just a little digging; you can find so much of this truth.
Yet we just have not seen the awakening in culture, which is why we feel the need for us to keep still doing what we’re doing.
Anybody On The Street Can Understand This New Book
Mark David Hall is a guy who has kind of journeyed a similar path; fighting for a lot of the same values that we care about. So, he’s a guy that we’re so excited about; doing something not just in an academic sense but very much in more of the laymen.
More of the storybook kind of level, where you don’t have to be an academic for it to make sense. You can be anybody on the streets; someone with a high school diploma, that’s even probably more than you need, but you can pick up this book read it makes so much sense.
He does such a good job giving the apologetic for why America was founded the way we were founded. He goes through the founding fathers in detail and deals with the arguments because there is a lot of talk out there; which side is right, did the founding fathers really believe this or do they believe that.
He just does such a good job getting into the details almost giving an apologetic for a lot of the things we’ve been talking about for a lot of years. We’re so grateful for what he is doing and excited to have him here in an interview in just a second.
He Has Been A Very Recognized Voice In The Academic World
The other thing I really appreciate about Mark is his ability to be adaptable because for a number of years he has been an academic voice speaking in the academic world; really holding them accountable, and keeping them at bay in some areas.
There are academics out there who are just crazy – about the founding fathers were all secular, and they were all atheists. He has been a very recognized voice to say no that’s not accurate. Here are the facts, history, and truth.
So, he’s done a great job in the academic world of trying to hold the line there. He’s very respected, and his knowledge is so phenomenal.
Tim, as you mentioned, we’ve had him on the program several times. When he talks, he doesn’t talk like an academic, or at least what like what you would expect an academic to be. He always makes it very practical and very down-to-earth. I love reading this stuff because it’s really readable stuff.
As he’s done academic stuff, he can be academic and very academic in the way he presents it but when he does stuff like what he’s doing this new book; it is so easy to read and so easy to understand.
I really do appreciate the fact that Mark is able to move between the average citizen world – where we live and the academic world where it really is important to have a voice there as well.
It’s his 12th book. It’s called did America have a Christian founding. He’ll be with us when we return from the break. So stay with us. You’re listening to WallBuilders Live.
Front Sight Handgun Training Course
Hey friends! Rick Green here, from WallBuilders Live. What do Dennis Prager, Larry Elder, Ben Shapiro, Rick Green, Tim Barton, David Barton – what do all these folks have in common other than the fact that they’re conservative commentators that defend the Constitution and educate America on the Constitution?
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And, this is for everyone – guys, gals, everyone should take this class. No matter how much you’ve shot your whole life or if you’ve never touched a gun, learn how to defend your family. We’re going to be going several times throughout the year, and we would love to have you be a part of that. Check it out at RickGreen.com today to find out the dates, get all the specifics, and get all of your questions answered. Check out RickGreen.com today to join us on this Front Sight trip for both your constitutional and handgun defense training.
Welcome back. Thanks for staying with us here at WallBuilders Live. Great to have Mark David Hall back with us. Always good to have you, Mark. Thanks for your time, sir.
Oh, good to be here. Thank you for having me.
New Book – Did America Have A Christian Founding?
Usually, we’re asking you some questions about history and different things, but this time we get to talk about your new book, Did America have a Christian founding?
I’m super excited about what you’ve done here, man.
I know you’ve written a lot on the subject but this one not so much for other professors and professionals in the political arena and judges and whatnot. You wrote this for all Mark:
Well, thank you so much.
I’ve been working on these questions for 20 years. I’ve done a bunch of academic stuff. I think it’s good stuff, and I’m glad I’ve done it, but almost no one reads it except for other professors, and maybe some attorneys here and there.
So, this book is aimed at the general reading public. Hopefully, we’ll get the message out even more than it’s been put out by you guys and others.
You take on some of the most debated topics about the founding fathers. In general, my first question: why do we talk so much about it? Why do we have disagreements about it in the country about the faith of the founders; how they thought and saw the world? Why is that so important to us today?
The Founders Are Still Held In Very High Regard
Part of the answer is very good news. I think the founders are still held in very high regard by most Americans. To have the founders on your side in a political debate can be very useful to both sides; the left and the right.
Progressives and conservatives go back and say, Look the founders embraced these views so therefore we should embrace them today or at least take them very seriously. That’s one answer.
The U.S. Supreme Court justices Have Insisted
The other answer is U.S. Supreme Court justices have insisted that we have to interpret the first amendment in light of the founders’ views. So, when it comes to religious liberty and church-state relations, it’s all the more important to have an accurate account of what those views are.
You know I was talking to a guy the other day about this. Our conversation went the direction of: don’t we read biographies of successful people so we can be more successful? We learn from the people that have done things well. Even if we have some things we can pick on in the founders, they have certainly created a fairly successful country.
How Did The Founding Fathers Get This So Right?
From my perspective, that’s another reason to study them. How did they get this so right? How did we become the greatest nation in history? We need to know what they thought when they put these particular systems of government and economics in place.
I think you’re exactly right. The founders were men, so they were flawed, just like all humans everywhere are and have been. But they were great men, a few women, perhaps. We have a lot to learn from them.
This book I wrote is not so much a biography of course, but there are really good biographies of the major founders at least that are available to people who are interested in that sort of thing.
What Was Their Belief System?
I say that from the perspective of we read those kinds of things because we want to know about those guys because they were so successful.
What you address is: what was the belief system that caused them to make the decisions that they made.
You take on this idea of; were they desist? Was Christianity an influence on the decisions they made, and the way they crafted things?
You also zero-in on specific founders as well. When we say founders, what do we typically mean by the founding fathers of America?
What Do We Mean By Founding Fathers?
Yeah, that’s a great question.
By founder, I mean those individuals that were involved in America’s war with Great Britain. The war for American independence, and then the creation of our Constitutional order.
The men in Philadelphia drafted the Constitution, the man who drafted the Bill of Rights, the individuals who went to the state ratifying conventions and enacted these documents, and the state legislature.
Our Founders Were Not Deists
So, it’s a pretty broad constellation of individuals, and what you see beyond a shadow of a doubt; scholar after scholar says the founders were Deist.
There is just no evidence to support that.
One or two of them of the famous elite ones certainly embrace some pretty non-Christian ideas, but even they were not Deists.
When you look at the broader range of founders, what you see is a whole herd of Christians from all we can tell. It’s certainly a lot of Christian ideas, and ideas developed within the Christian tradition of political reflection that had a major impact on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Yeah, it’s almost like the folks who would label all the founders as Deists; they’d take one or two examples, and try to paint this broad stroke. I don’t think we do that in anything else where we’d say well because there’s an outlier over here, then everybody in that community or everybody in this era of history believes that this certain way.
It’s not very scholarly is that? Is it fair to say that about most of them were all Deists?.
It’s Just Malpractice
Well, absolutely. No, it’s just horrible history in social science. It would be similar to me asserting that most African-Americans today are Republicans.
Look at Clarence Thomas and Michael Steele and J.C. Watts. I just listed three African-Americans who are Republicans but I think we all know that the vast majority of African-Americans vote Democratic in any given election.
The vast majority of elected officials who are African-Americans are Democrats, and so it’d be flat out malpractice to assert that most African-Americans are Republicans, in the same way, it’s just malpractice. It’s just false to say most, or even many of America’s founders were Deists.
What Does Deist Mean?
Let’s talk about what Deist means because you define that really well. You actually go through other people’s definitions of what the right view definition was back then.
That is, if you were a Deist back then, you believed in a god, but he wasn’t involved in anything.
He was kind of a watchmaker god thing. Is that the proper definition of Deism as you look at it?
I think that is the best definition. It’s the most popular definition. It’s a definition embraced by very good scholars, and I quote some of them.
I don’t do a lot of engaging with the secondary literature but on something like this: I do cite several very important and good scholars who are widely respected who offer this sort of definition of Deism.
It’s A Very Reasonable Definition Of Deism
So, I think it’s a very reasonable definition of Deism.
If that’s their definition of Deism, it just makes no sense to call any American founder a Deist with the exception of Ethan Allen, and perhaps Tom Paine if we count him as an American.
He is actually from England, and he spends the vast majority of his life over in Europe. So I’m not even sure we should count him out as an American founder.
Ethan Allen As Our Founding Father
I’ve always heard Ethan Allen’s name thrown out there, and I personally haven’t read that much about him.
In the book, You point out that his role as a founding father was major in the battle for Fort Ticonderoga, right? Other than that, what did he do that would make him a founding father?
I don’t mean to discount that role; I’m just saying we tend to think of these guys as the founders who wrote the founding documents. They were major generals, governors, or whatever.
I’m not even sure I’d throw him in there, but I mean we do. We do we tend to refer to him as a founder, so if he’s the only one, what about the major guys?
Let me say he did play a role in getting statehood for Vermont, but he was not involved at all in writing the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights or ratifying those documents.
I would call him the founder, but he is a pretty minor one.
George Washington Talks About God All The Time
When you look at the important founders like George Washington talking about God intervening in human affairs all of the time, literally all the time. You almost couldn’t count up the number of times in private letters, and public pronouncements that Washington is talking about God intervening: causing things to happen or whatnot. Even the most skeptical of the founders, someone like Ben Franklin seems to have towards the end of his life, recognize that God intervenes in human affairs.
He certainly speaks of and writes of it in numerous places. Even Jefferson does, and certainly, Adams, Roger Sherman, Patrick Henry, and others do it all the time.
Again, to call the founders, Deists is just ridiculous.
They Don’t Represent The Broad Political Class Of Founders
You could argue and clearly Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and John Adams they do embrace some non-christian ideas, some heretical ideas, but even then I don’t think they are representative of the broader political class of founders.
When you look at this broader class, very important people in the Constitutional Convention, the first federal Congress, the state legislatures that ratified the Bill of Rights, the state constitutions and the ratification conventions; what you see are all sorts of evidence that they were Orthodox Christians acting upon Christian political ideas.
The Language That They Used
Tell me about the language they used because I’ve picked up on that as you point out in the book. When the folks that want to label them as Deists, they’ll even say that because they use certain words to refer to God, that meant they were a Deist. You debunk that in the book as well.
Yes, thank you for pointing that out. You are right.
So something like the Declaration of Independence, you have phrases like nature’s God. What people sometimes do is they’ll say look, we know Jefferson wrote the Declaration and Jefferson is somewhat of a Deist. Therefore nature’s God means nature.
Well, that’s just a fundamentally flawed way of understanding a document like the Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson was a drafter of the Declaration; there was a committee of five people. The other four had input and changed things that Jefferson drafted. The document then went to the Continental Congress, they made additional changes, and then the Congress approved the document.
A God that Intervenes In Human Affairs
When you look at the range of founders, when they heard nature’s God, they would have immediately thought of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. A God that intervenes in human affairs.
They were not thinking of nature.
So, even if Thomas Jefferson might have meant nature by that phrase, the rest of the founders didn’t. They use language like that in other documents.
Clearly and explicitly in documents, in hymns, for instance, Isaac writes a poem where he references to nature’s God. He means the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – not some sort of vague distant god who doesn’t intervene in human affairs.
It’s such a thorough review, and I know compared to your other books that are there, and you’ve read a ton, it’s probably a little shorter, and it’s – what’s the word I’m looking for?
What Is The Philosophy Behind These Guys?
Yes, accessible. I love it. I think it’s definitely needed.
We think it’s important to know what was the philosophy behind these guys. What was, as one historian called it, the atmosphere they were breathing?
You make such a good case for it. I love the way you write, and the way you present this is; you’re not dogmatic at all.
You actually go down the trail of saying, OK if you buy this argument, and if you buy that argument then yes, we could say this one founder was this. And there may be some guys that we haven’t found writings on.
You give all the exceptions there. I just think it’s really well written in a way that most people today, who are seeking truth and want to know the truth, are really going to enjoy reading.
They’re going to find some things that are certainly not being taught on most college campuses today. So, thank you, brother. I mean it’s really well done.
Hey, thank you very much for those encouraging words, Rick, I really appreciate it.
Did America have a Christian founding? Mark David Hall.
How To Get The Book
Mark, the best place for people to get the book?
You can go right to the publisher Nelson books or of course you go on Amazon or any other online platform. It can be preordered, and I would encourage people to do that.
When is the official version coming out?
It will be out October 28.
All right, sounds good brother. Well, thank you for what you do. Keep up the great work.
What Else Do You Teach
Before I let you go, you teach history, what else do you teach?
I teach politics. We have one of the best Great Books Honors programs in the nation. If any listeners out there are interested in such programs for their high school-age children, I would love to talk to them. My information can easily be found on the George Fox website. Just google George Fox University, Mark David Hall. It should come right up, and your listeners should feel free to call. I would not mind that at all.
Good stuff. Mark, appreciate you, brother. Have a good one man. Thanks for your time.
Thanks so much appreciate it.
Stay with us folks we’ll be right back with David and Tim.
This Precarious Moment Book
This is David Barton. I want to let about a brand new book we have called This Precarious Moment: Six Urgent Steps That Will Save You, Your Family, and Our Country. Jim Garlow and I have co-authored this book, and we take six issues that are hot in the culture right now.
Issues that we’re dealing with, issues such as immigration, race relations, our relationship with Israel, the rising generation Millennials, and the absence of the church in the culture wars, and where American heritage is our godly heritage. We look at all six of those issues right now that are under attack, and we give you both Biblical and historical perspective on those issues that provide solutions on what each of us can do right now to make a difference.
These are all problems that are solvable if we’ll get involved. So, you can grab the book. This Precarious Moment and find out what you can do to make a difference. This Precarious Moment is available at WallBuilders.com.
Welcome back to WallBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us. Again, the book Did America have a Christian founding?
Mark David Hall And Andrew Seidel
By the way two days from right now on September 11th Mark David Hall is going to be debating Andrew Seidel. He’s from Freedom From Religion Foundation, the exact opposite view.
They have a book called The founding myth: why Christian Nationalism is un-American. He’s on the totally other side and propagates this completely inaccurate myth about the Founders were Deists, and so Mark David Hall is going to debate him.
It’s going to be on C-SPAN so everybody can watch it. It’s going to be Wednesday night September 11th, 6:00-7: 30 pm check that out on C-SPAN.
Back with David and Tim now guys.
Great interview, of course. Great information from Mark. A lot more in the book but also excited to see him take on this guy from Freedom From Religion Foundation in that debate.
Well, that’s had academics side that comes out, and I would not want to be sitting in the chair across from him in that debate. His knowledge of the American founding and American history and just American history, in general, all the way back. He can go back into even American history as affected by the Reformation; what that did in changing Christianity, and the face of Christianity in the world.
Mark is so well informed that I think it would be an intriguing kind of viewing experience for folks to see it.
I don’t know what analogy to use, but it’s going to be kind of like a boxing match, and I think that Mark is going to be the guy that doesn’t have his gloves on, that has a better chance of kind of beating the dickens out of his opponent because he gets so much more to work with.
That would be fun to see, but that’s where Mark is so good on this. I was really intrigued too by some of the stuff he pointed out.
Interview Recap: The Founders Are Still Held In High Esteem
You asked him about the founders, and he said two things about the founders; he said, I really think the founders are still held in high esteem today. As high as esteem, it really helps to have them on your side.
I thought that’s really good to hear because I know that they were in high esteem for years. But I’m glad to hear that he still thinks that founders are in high esteem today. It is good for our side as Conservatives, but he also said the founders’ views also help establish original intent for the courts.
Now that we’re getting good, and even better judges back on the court’s, original intent once again will matter.
It Is The Most Valuable Thing To Reestablish Original Intent On Religion
So having a knowledge of American founding and the founders I think is going to be one of the most valuable things we’ve had probably in our generation: to help reestablish their original intent on religion and this area.
We’ve talked in previous programs, that we already see the courts change religious liberty. We’re seeing expressions of religious liberty we’ve not had in 30, 40, 50 years. So things are changing.
He Has Taken On Some Common Myths About The Founding Fathers
He’s taking on some of these issues that are are kind of the common myths about the Founding Fathers; we know the majority of them were Deists. This is where I ask the question, OK well, who do you know that was a Deist? Give me the list of names who were the Deists?
Rick, even as you asked him the question, he said you could include names like Ethan Allen, and Thomas Paine. I’m not even sure you could include Thomas Paine because he spent more of his time in England in Europe.
I thought that’s a really good point. Thomas Paine is one of the guys who certainly Thomas Paine hated Christianity, although he did believe there was a God. But he hated Christianity. He is somebody that has often pointed to as evidence the founding fathers were not all pro-Christian.
Even as he points out, Thomas Paine didn’t spend all that much time in America, but he did have a very influential book, Common Sense, that did have a major impact on some of the thinking that led to some of the founding ideals.
Nonetheless, Allen and Thomas Paine are really only two guys you can put in that Deist camp, who didn’t believe there was a God who was involved in the world on that kind of level.
Were They All Christian Is Another Question
All the other founding fathers were someone who did believe in God. Now, were they Christian is a different question.
This is where you can talk about guys like Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin. He pointed out, at points in their life, they did not all hold a Christian theological perspective. There were certain doctrines they didn’t agree with.
As he pointed out in the interview, that’s not consistent with the majority of the founding fathers. There’s so much content in this book.
I’m so excited for Americans to be able to have something else to go to and learn more about American history and the founding fathers.
All right, it’s called, Did America have a Christian founding: Separating modern myth from historical truth, written by Mark David Hall, Professor at George Fox University. Check that book out today.
Get educated on these things.
It’s a great one for you to have conversations with people about, and have some good strong data and strong examples to back up the the the fact that the founders were breathing that atmosphere of Christianity. It did permeate the founding era and that it was the source of our strength, the source of our Declaration and our Constitution.
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